Jack Hughes says Devils' attitude needs adjustment

ByGreg Wyshynski ESPN logo
Friday, February 23, 2024

NEWARK, N.J. -- After his New Jersey Devils were embarrassed by the rival New York Rangers at home on Thursday, star center Jack Hughes said his team needs an attitude adjustment as their playoff hopes dim.

"We've got to digest tonight and then we've got to wrap our heads around changing our attitude and really believing in ourselves," said Hughes, who scored the Devils' only goal in their 5-1 loss to the Rangers, who won their ninth straight game. "Not just talking and saying that, but actually doing that."

The Devils followed their Stadium Series victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night with two straight losses to Metro Division rivals. On Tuesday, they lost at the Washington Capitals by a 6-2 score, before returning home to get blown out by the Rangers.

"That was a big win and we had two good opportunities. We didn't do very much with it. So now we're in a hole," said Hughes of the Stadium Series win at MetLife Stadium.

The Devils are now five points in back of Tampa Bay, who visits New Jersey on Sunday, for the final wild card spot in the East. They have two games in-hand on the Lightning. The Devils are seven points behind the Flyers, who are third in the Metro, with one game in-hand on Philadelphia.

New Jersey's power play continued to struggle mightily and might have ultimately cost them the game against the Rangers. The Devils squandered a five-minute match penalty given to the Rangers' Matt Rempe after an illegal check to the head of Nate Bastian only 2:25 into the game. New York would score the game's first goal five seconds into their own power play at 9:14 of the first.

In the second period, trailing 3-0, the Devils failed to score during four minutes of power play time following a double-minor high-sticking call against Kaapo Kakko. In total, New Jersey had 11:52 of power play time in the game and didn't convert. They're now in a 1-for-16 rut over their last four games, having scored one power-play goal in over 31 minutes of man advantage time.

With top defenseman Dougie Hamilton having missed the majority of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, Devils coach Lindy Ruff had to turn to rookies Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec to quarterback his power play.

"We need that 'next game' mentality. I think everyone knows that tonight wasn't a good game for everyone. So we've got to come back and do our jobs," said Luke Hughes.

"They've probably done a better than expected job for me and they're going to continue to grow," Ruff said, vowing to make more changes on their power play. "But with young defense, there's going to be mistakes. There be some poor decisions at times, but you have to just live with that and you got to grow through it."

Jack Hughes felt the Devils' offense was too passive against Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin, who made 39 saves.

"One goal, 40 shots. It probably means a lot of perimeter shooting. He saw a lot of pucks," said Hughes.

The Devils star put the responsibility on himself to be better. "I'm obviously not playing at my best but got to find a way to get to that point and help us make a push," he said.

Hughes missed 11 games recently for an upper-body injury. In his seven games since returning, he has 3 goals and 3 assists. Hughes said after the game he's healthy. Ruff admitted that isn't completely the case.

"Is he 100%? He's not 100%, no," said Ruff. "Jack is battling hard. Probably not happy with his game, but he's battling hard here to do whatever he can do to help us win a hockey game

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